2006 Year of Study Abroad

Toward the end of the old year, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution designating 2006 the “Year of Study Abroad.” “Whereas educating students internationally is an important way to share the values of the United States, to create goodwill for the United States around the world, to work toward a peaceful global society, and to increase international trade,” Senate Resolution 308 began. It then documented in detail the benefits and advantages of study-abroad, ending in a call for the promotion and expansion of study abroad opportunities by secondary schools, institutions of higher learning, businesses and government programs. (For the full text, go to http://thomas.loc.gov/ and do a keyword search “year of study abroad.”)

But the resolution was just one of several exciting pieces of study-abroad news last fall. In November, the prestigious Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program, a bi-partisan committee appointed by the U.S. Congress and the President, issued a report calling for a national effort to boost dramatically the number of students studying abroad in the next decade. The Commission proposed sizeable appropriations from Congress beginning with $50 million and increasing to $125 million by the next decade. For the executive summary, go to http://www.lincolncommission.org/report.html

And again, in November, in conjunction with International Education Week, “Open Doors 2005,” an annual report released by the Institute of International Education, which is supported by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, gave us something to cheer about.

According to the report, the number of UW-Madison students studying abroad in 2003-04 increased 11.7 percent from the previous year, above the national figure of 9.6 percent cited by the IIE. In 2003-04, 1,609 UW-Madison students (up from 1,441) studied abroad in UW-Madison programs offered by several campus units, or in non-UW-Madison programs for which the students received transfer credit. International Studies’ International Academic Programs offers the largest number of study abroad programs at the university.

Nationally, 191,321 U.S. students studied abroad, a record number according to the IIE. Since the 2000-2001 academic year, the number of students studying abroad nationally has gone up almost 20 percent. UW-Madison ranked No. 8 nationally in the total number of students studying abroad, the report stated.

“The numbers demonstrate that our students increasingly view study abroad as a vital part of their education, and as preparation for being able to succeed in an increasingly globalized world,” said Gilles Bousquet, dean of International Studies. “We want to continue to build on our record of excellence and make study-abroad experiences affordable and accessible to as many students as possible.”

UW-Madison students received credit for courses offered in more than 100 programs on six continents. Consistent with national trends, Europe continued to be the most popular destination, accounting for 59.9 percent of all UW-Madison study-abroad participants. But, study abroad in non-traditional destinations is expanding significantly.

The IIE reports that nationally study abroad to China increased dramatically – by 90 percent in 2003-2004. At UW-Madison, it increased five-fold (from 12 students to 60), in part because of two new programs, a summer language program and a short-term seminar geared toward human ecology students. In addition, new Chou-Kuo Ping scholarships, offered in recognition of Professor Emeritus Chou-Kuo Ping, have enabled several students to study abroad in China.

Although the Open Doors report shows that American students study abroad in larger numbers but for shorter time periods, UW-Madison continues to send more students abroad for one or two full terms during the academic year. The percentage of UW-Madison students on yearlong programs is 12.3 percent while the national figure is 6 percent. Campus-wide, 58.8 percent of students participated for one full term in 2003-04, compared to the national average of 38 percent.

Currently, 16.1 percent of current UW-Madison bachelor’s degree recipients have studied abroad.